Jazzing up the island ...

For almost 30 years, the May Day bank holiday weekend was dedicated to the Isle of Bute Jazz Festival.

Every year between 1988 and 2016, Bute was colonised over the long weekend by a huge community of well-known musicians, local stalwarts and jazz enthusiasts of all stripes.

Though the festival comprised events all over the island, the Rothesay Pavilion was always the centrepiece for the festivities.

But the iconic art deco building which dates back to the 1930s began to show its age after 80 years of use for community events, and in 2010 it was placed on a ‘buildings at risk’ register.

In 2014 the Rothesay Pavilion Charity was set up to lead the project to restore the building, which closed to the public in 2015.

Though the work at the Pavilion is necessary to keep the site safe, the closure was a heavy blow to the jazz festival which relied on the facilities available there.

The Pavilion’s closure, coupled with what the organisers called ‘critical economic circumstances’ meant this year’s festival, which would have taken place last weekend, had to be called off.

But that didn’t stop the jazz festival committee putting on three concerts over the winter, and a positive response meant jazz fans could still look forward to a live music extravaganza on the weekend that would traditionally have hosted the festival.

A special concert held at Rothesay’s 292 club on Sunday, April 30 was just one of a number of events for live music fans on the island and further afield.

The concert, which sold more than 80 tickets, was headlined by jazz trio The Ugly Bug Ragtime 3, and also had local acts the Bute Ukelele Band and West Bay Blues perform.

Saturday saw the Victoria hotel hosting the Penman Jazz Band and Transclyde Music bringing the well-known guitarist John Goldie to Craigmore Bowling Club.

Ronald Ferguson of Transclyde Music performed in both the Bute Ukelele Band and West Bay Blues on Sunday, and was also heavily involved in organising John Goldie’s visit on Saturday.

Of the gig at Craigmore he said: “We were delighted to have attracted such an internationally renowned artist to come and play here.

“It certainly builds on Transclyde Music’s reputation and enhances our ability to attract big names to come and play here.”

John Goldie was supported on Saturday by John McMeekin, and he hosted a guitar workshop the following day.

Tim Saul, chair of the Isle of Bute Jazz Festival committee, said the Sunday concert had been encouraging: “We had a very good turnout in the end and it was great to see people supporting jazz on the island.”

Tim is planning to relaunch the festival in 2019 when the Pavilion reopens, and have events similar to this year’s in 2018 to tide jazz fans over,

Ronald said it was difficult to make up for the temporary loss of the biggest music event of the year.

He said: “Tim Saul did a great job keeping the jazz profile going but without doubt the festival was missed in so many ways.

“In the past the town was jumping as were all the venues, pubs and restaurants.

“Accommodation was hard to find and there was a great atmosphere throughout the town.

“I think people enjoyed what we did but it was no substitute for what we once had.

“I wish Tim and his hardworking committee well for the future but I think the council need to be much more entrepreneurial in supporting festival ideas.

“You only have to see the fabulous job the Dumfries and Galloway council made of their Big Burns Supper in January - a week of activities ranging across all the arts, supported by the council.

“Let’s all work together to make Bute a must-go destination.”